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Is My Adopted Son Mahram?

Shaykh Jamir Meah advises on adoption, the rulings on mahram, and telling the truth to an adopted child.

My question is: I was childless me and my husband adapted the son of my husband’s brother. Ten years ago my husband died. This boy is 29 and I am 60 so there is huge age gap. My son doesn’t know I am not his real mom, so like an actual mother, when he comes home he shows his respect with hugs, and kisses on the head. What are the rulings on this? I need guidance.

This is a very sensitive issue, however, if handled carefully, will work out fine insha Allah. There are two issues that need to be dealt with; informing your husband’s nephew and adopted son of his real parents, and how to interact with each other.  

Telling the Truth

You should tell your adopted son the truth about his parents. This may be very difficult to do, but he has a right to know who his real mother and father are. It is not clear from the information given whether his real parents are alive or not, which may simplify or complicate the process. 

Either way, hopefully he will realize that what you and your husband did was out of love. He is a grown man and should understand the complexities of the situation. You may also want to seek advice from other family members who can support both you and him during this process.  

Mahram (Non-Marriageable Kin)

Because he is your late husband’s nephew, your adopted son is not your mahram, unless you breastfed him when he was under the age of two years old, with certain conditions fulfilled. For further details on who would be your mahram please consult this answer

This means that a) you will have to fully cover in front of him except for your face and hands, b) avoid seclusion with him, and c) avoid physical contact.  

I understand that this is going to be the most difficult and strange thing to you both as your relationship is of mother and son. Therefore, be patient and know that your love and care for each other will not go unrewarded and whatever hardship you undergo for the sake of Allah, will be recompensed. It may take more thought and effort, but try to find ways you can be in each other’s company lawfully, such as with another female family member present, so you can still enjoy one another’s company.  

If at times, the maternal bond over takes you and you forget or slip in your interaction, or your adopted son towards you, then do your best to stay within the limits while being assured that Allah Most High is most Knowing and ever Compassionate.  

I wish you both every happiness, and that your bond is made stronger for the sake of Allah Most High. 

Warmest salams,

Jamir

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Traveling without Mahram to Visit Parents

Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan answers a question about the permissibility of a woman traveling without a mahram to visit here parents.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I hope this finds you in the best health.

I have been traveling by road for the past few years to visit my parents from home, which is about 41 miles. However, my parents have recently moved further and will be about 55 miles away from my home. Is it permissible for me to drive to their house without a mahram? I will have my two kids with me. My husband has offered to drive me every now and then, but I would like to be able to go on my own as well. Please let me know the ruling in this particular situation.

Jazak Allah.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Thank you for writing to us.

Undertaking a journey without a mahram has received much discussion from the scholars in recent years. This is primarily because the mediums of traveling have changed considerably from the agrarian world. With the change of these mediums, a lady traveling by herself, will often enjoy much more safety than had she been traveling with a mahram in an agrarian world. The Maliki school in particular was very clear that a lady may travel by herself provided that there is safety during her travels. (Mawahib al-Jalil)

Nonetheless, your journey is just outside the 83km (masafah al-qasr) radius. In addition, you will be staying with your father, who is a mahram. All these considered, it would be permissible for you to travel with your kids to visit your parents.

And Allah knows best.

Abdurragmaan Khan

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Can I Follow Another Madhhab When Traveling?

Ustadh Tabraze Azam is asked about taking a dispensation from another madhhab in one thing and how that affects other actions.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I am Hanafi. In the Hanafi madhhab, it is not permissible for a woman to travel without a mahram. However, this website states that their is a reliable opinion within the Maliki that allows travel without a mahram subject to certain conditions.

So my question is, if I am traveling do I need to do everything according to the Maliki madhhab – e.g., praying according to Malikis, doing wudu with rubbing whole head etc. – in order to avoid talfiq (impermissible mixing)? Or can I continue with my normal worship as a Hanafi and just take rukhsa (dispensation) for the issue of travel?

Jazak Allah khayr.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

You may take the Maliki dispensation permitting travel, with its requisite conditions, while continuing to pray as normal according to your chosen school of law (madhhab). Travel isn’t inextricably connected to prayer.

Impermissible mixing between legal schools (talfiq) is understood to be in the context of a single action such that no school would deem the action to be valid. When dealing with separate actions, it is acceptable to join between them if there is a need to do so.

Please also see Can a Woman Travel Alone for More Than 48 Miles If There Is a Benefit?, Can I Travel by Plane Without a Mahram? and A Reader on Following Schools of Thought (Madhabs).

And Allah Most High knows best.

Wassalam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Can I Give an Adopted Child My Surname?

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat is asked about adoption, giving an adopted child one’s name, and how to make the child one’s mahram.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I am planning on adopting a baby. I am aware of the rule against naming the child after your surname. It is not permissible.

However, I have come to know of babies whose birth certificates were never completely filled out, or the mother named them not after themselves or named them after a drug or did not name them properly at all (i.e. I found a little girl up for adoption and her name was “Baby Girl” as her full name). Surely if I were to face a situation like this I can give her my surname?

Also, I cannot produce breast milk, so if I were to adopt a boy/girl, how do I make them mahram? Is there some other way? Please tell me there is.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

The short answer is that it is permissible for you to give your surname to a child that you adopt. There are also a few means you can take to make the child a mahram to you if he or she is less than two years old.

Adoption In Islam

Adoption, meaning taking legal responsibility for the upbringing of a child, is permissible in Islam. There is a lot of confusion around this topic.

The Sacred Law prohibits the pre-Islamic (Jahili) practice of “tabanni.” This is when a person “adopts” a child and essentially changes the lineage of the child.

The child is not known as the son or daughter of his or her father, but rather, as the offspring of the adopter. This is a problem because the Shari‘a aims to preserve lineage as much as possible. Discarding one’s lineage and taking someone else as one’s father is ingratitude for the blessing of parentage.

There is also the point of a number of rulings of the Shari‘a being based on lineage – such as the impermissibility of marrying certain individuals, financial obligations, inheritance, dress, seclusion, etc. The jahili practice undermined all of these rulings and obligations. For this the Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever knowingly claims that someone other than his real father is his father, Paradise is prohibited for him.” (Bukhari)

Lineage gives one a sense of belonging to a greater community, and Allah has created us as tribes and sub-tribes so we can have good relationships with each other (Sura al-Hujarat 49:13). Experts on trauma mention that having strong relationships with people helps prevent trauma set in when people undergo difficult situations.

For these, and other wisdoms, Allah abolished the pre-Islamic form of adoption saying, “Address them as [being descendants of their] fathers; that is fairer in the sight of Allah.” (Sura al-Ahzab 33:5). (Sayis, Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam)

Surnames

A surname is not an indicator of one’s lineage. Many a time it is an old family name, or the name of a distant ancestor, or even the husbands surname name for a lady who changes her name.

Giving an adopted child your surname is not tantamount to changing his lineage – especially if you make it clear to him that he is adopted. Doing so when it will make legal procedures easier makes sense too.

Becoming A Child’s Mahram

You only need to be concerned here if the child is of the opposite gender to you. Also, before puberty there is usually no need to be worried this issue.

If you adopt a boy, and he is less than 24 lunar months old either you or one of you sisters can breastfeed him, and he will become a mahram for you both. If it is a girl, one of your husband’s sisters could breastfeed her for the same ruling.

It is possible to lactate without getting pregnant. There are various hormone regimens which you could take to produce this effect. Any child who drinks that milk would become a mahram to you. (Al-Midani, Al-Lubab)

If this is not possible, then you should consult with a reliable local scholar as there are others means which to bring about this ruling, but they require detail.

May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

Abdul-Rahim

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Physical Interaction with Non-Mahram Relations

Shaykh Jamir Meah is asked about a non-Mahram male relation who, it seems, is forcing himself on a female member of his family.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I have a question. If a lady is alone with a person of the opposite gender who is her family. He comes to interact with her physically. She finds it too difficult to maintain. She feels guilt and remorse about his character, repents a lot and she is not at all interested in him.

What is the Shari‘a of this? It may be helpful if someone would provide the answer, insha Allah. I will pray for you.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Thank you for writing in.

It is not entirely clear from your information what the exact situation is and whether the woman in the situation is being abused or is voluntarily having a physical relationship with the male family member, albeit not a happy one. Either way, the interaction is prohibited in Islam.

Relationships with male family members

It is prohibited to expose certain parts of the body to marriageable family members (or strangers), and if this is the case, then it goes without saying that touching, or more, is unlawful. Allah Most High says “Do not go near adultery. It is truly a shameful deed and an evil way.” (Sura al Isra 17:32)

Physical relationships are only permitted between a husband and wife. Any other sexual contact is strictly prohibited in Islam and is among the major sins.

Solution

If the male family member is forcing himself upon the woman without consent, then she must seek help either by confiding and seeking assistance from a trustworthy family member she can turn to, or a counselor, or some other support available. This is imperative if abuse is taking place.

If the interaction is consensual, then she should know that it is unlawful and must stop. It is not permitted that she is alone with him in any scenario, nor have a non-marital ‘relationship’ in general, as such all communication between the two must cease. If by stopping the interaction, the woman fears for her safety, then she should seek help as described above.

She should also sincerely repent for any part she has played in the relationship and resolve not to return to it.

Please also refer to the following posts:

How Should I Interact With Non-Mahram (Marriageable) Males?

Sexual Abuse Archives

Warmest salams,

Jamir

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


Can a Woman Go Perform a Umra Alone? [Shafi’i]

Answered by Shaykh Farid Dingle

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I am a woman. Can I go on umra without a mahram?

Answer: Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,

In the Shafi’i madhhab, it is permissible for a woman to perform a personally obligatory hajj or umrah without a mahram. [Bushra al-Karim] If however one has already fulfilled the obligation of umra, then it would only be permissible to go with a mahram.

Please also see this answer

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Farid Dingle

Shaykh Farid Dingle grew up in a convert family in Herefordshire, UK. In 2007, he moved to Jordan to pursue traditional studies. Shaykh Farid continues to live in Amman, Jordan with his wife and kids. In addition to continuing his studies he teaches Arabic and several of the Islamic sciences.

Shaykh Farid began his journey in sacred knowledge with intensives in the UK and Jordan (2004) in Shafi’i fiqh and Arabic. After years of studying Arabic grammar, Shafi’i fiqh, hadith, legal methodology (usul al-fiqh) and tafsir, Sh. Farid began specializing in Arabic language and literature. Sh. Farid studied Pre-Islamic poetry, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, and Andalusian literature. He holds a BA in Arabic Language and Literature and continues exploring the language of the Islamic tradition.

In addition to his interest in the Arabic language Shaykh Farid actively researches matters related to jurisprudence (fiqh) which he studied with Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, and continues with Shaykh Amjad Rasheed.

Can I Travel by Plane Without a Mahram?

Answered by Shaykh Umer Mian

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I am willing to study in a city that is 50 minutes by plane away from my family. When I will there I’ll be residing in a very safe place. Is it permissible for a woman to fly a distance of about 350 miles (50 minutes) alone?

Answer: As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

First of all, regarding the distance after which travelling becomes impermissible for a woman:

It is the same as the distance after which prayers are shortened, i.e. 48 miles, regardless of whether that distance is covered quickly (e.g. on an airplane) or slowly (e.g. by car or by foot).

Secondly, Fatwa # 1 below conveys the permissibility of a Muslim woman residing alone in a foreign country, as long as her safety and security is relatively certain and her reason for being there is permissible in itself. Although the issue of residing alone was not specifically asked about, this fatwa has been provided for your benefit since it relates to your situation.

Third, regarding the issue of a Muslim woman travelling without her husband/mahram, two fatwas are given. Please read these fatwas below in full, in order to properly understand the issue. Fatwa # 2 goes into detail regarding this issue. A number of hadith are provided along with detailed explanation, and many citations are given to relied-upon Islamic texts. The conclusion is that a Muslim woman may not travel beyond 48 miles from her place of residence without her husband or a mahram (i.e. unmarriageable kin such as father, son, brother, uncle, etc.). However, Fatwa # 3 conveys the position of some Maliki scholars for the permissibility of a Muslim woman travelling beyond this distance. According to these scholars, this is permissible as long as she is with a group of people with whom her safety and security is relatively certain. Modern air travel normally fulfills this condition, according to these scholars. Hence, it is clear that there is some difference of opinion of scholars on this issue. In one of his previous answers, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani summarized the issue as follows:

“There are permissive fatwas from some respected, traditional scholars. But safety lies in caution. As such, what I have heard from two fuqaha of great knowledge, wisdom and taqwa, Shaykh Adib al-Kallas of Damascus and Shaykh Mahmoud Ashraf Usmani of Pakistan is that women should NOT do so under normal circumstances. They explained the fiqhi reasoning behind this: it is convincing. It is also what taqwa and caution would indicate. The Prophetic hadiths on the issue are well known. The way of those two seek the path of the next life is to avoid dispensations and the ‘easy way out’ on such matters inasmuch as reasonably possible.”

Fatwa # 1
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A woman living alone in a foreign country
Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed

Question: What is the ruling of man who leaves his wife alone in a foreign country so that she can call people to the religion of Allah?

Answer: A woman living alone in a foreign country is not forbidden as long as her honor and religion is safe, whether she is there to call people to Allah, Most High, or for another purpose that is permissible, such as visiting relatives and the sort.

However, it is not permissible [in the Shafi`i school] for her to move from the country that she is in, such that she would be traveling alone without a mahram, even if it is with the intention of calling people to Allah, Most High. It is also impermissible for her to live alone in a place where her religion and honor is not safe.

Amjad Rasheed

السؤال: ما هو حُكم مَن يترك زوجته وحدَها في دولة أجنبية لتقومَ بالدعوة إلى دين الله؟

الجواب : إقامةُ المرأة وحدَها في دولة أجنبية غير ممنوع طالما كانت تأمن على عرضها ودينها سواء كانت تقيمُ هناك للدعوة إلى الله تعالى أم لغرض آخر مباح كزيارة رحم ونحو ذلك ، لكن لا يجوز لها أن تنتقل من بلدتها التي هي فيها فتسافر وحدها من غير محرم ولو كان ذلك بقصد الدعوة إلى الله تعالى . وكذلك يحرمُ إقامتها وحدَها إن كانت لا تأمن على عرضها ودينها .

Fatwa # 2
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Can Women Travel Without a Mahram? By Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

(follow the link above to read the fatwa)

Fatwa # 3
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Is there a dispensation in the Shafi`i school for a woman to travel with a safe group upon need?
Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed

Question: Is there a dispensation in the Shafi`i school for a woman to travel with a safe group upon need when she does not have a mahram (unmarriageable kin) that she can travel with?

Answer: When a woman travels without her husband or mahram, there is some detail to discuss. If the purpose of her travel is to perform an obligation, such as the hajj or umra, according to our school, it is permissible for her to travel by herself, if she feels it is safe for her. Included in this is travel for seeking a livelihood, if no one else spends on her, as the scholars have explicitly stated, because seeking halal livelihood is obligatory. However, she must be sure to observe the rules of covering and not be in seclusion with men.

As for a trip that is for something non-obligatory, it is haram for her to travel without a husband or mahram, even if she feels it is safe, and I have not heard anything in our school that permits it.

I have seen in Maliki works a position that it is permissible if the travel is with a secure group and some of the later scholars have relied upon this. I asked the erudite scholar, Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafiz al-Shanqayti al-Maliki and he said that it is permissible to follow this opinion and to act upon it in their school, such as airplane passengers if they are many. In this is some room for ease.

– Amjad.

(Translated by Shazia Ahmad)

السؤال : هل ثم رخصة في المذهب الشافعي للمرأة أن تسافر في قافلة مأمونة عند الحاجة مع عدم إمكان السفر مع محرم ؟

الجواب : في سفر المرأة من غير زوج أو محرم تفصيلٌ ؛ فإن كان سفرُها لأداء واجبٍ كالحج والعمرة عندنا فيجوز لها السفرُ وحدَها إن أمنت على نفسها ، ومن ذلك السفرُ لطلب الرزق كما صرحوا به إن لم يُنفق عليها أحدٌ ؛ لأن طلب الحلال واجب ، لكن عليها مراعاةُ الأحكام بستر العورة وعدم الخلوة بالرجال .

أما إن كان سفرُها لغير واجب فيحرم عليها من غير زوج أو محرم وإن أمنت على نفسها ، ولا أعلم قولاً في مذهبنا يبيحُ ذلك . نعم رأيتُ في بعض كتب المالكية قولاً بالجواز إن كان السفر مع جمعٍ مأمونٍ واعتمده بعضُ المتأخرين منهم ، وقد سألتُ عنه العلامةَ الشيخَ محمداً الحافظ الشنقيطي المالكي فقال : يجوز تقليدُه والعملُ به في مذهبهم كمسافري الطائرة إن كانوا كثيرين ، وفيه سعة .

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Umer Mian

Is My Son a Mahram of His Father’s New Wife?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

I am divorced and have an young son. The father of my son ( my ex-husband) got married and asked my son to call his wife his mother. Which is fine with me because she is like a mother and my son should respect her. The only concern I have is that whether my son is a mahram to the wife of my ex-husband?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Yes, the son is from the unmarriageable kin (mahram) of his father’s wife.

Sons cannot marry their father’s wives, and consequently, they are considered to be from their unmarriageable kin. Allah Most High says, “And marry not those women whom your fathers married.” [4:22]

[Mawsili, al-Ikhtiyar li Ta‘lil al-Mukhtar]

Please also see: Who is Mahram

And Allah Most High knows best.

wassalam,
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.

Can a Non-Muslim Relative Be My Mahram?

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question: Asslamu Alaykum,

Can a non-Muslim uncle be my mahram?

Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakaruh

Thank you for your question.

Who is a Maḥram?

A maḥram is anyone who a Muslim lady cannot marry. This includes her father, son, grandson, brother (biological or through one of them being breastfed the other’s mother), paternal and maternal uncles, nephews, etc. Therefore, your non-Muslim uncle is your maḥram.

Rulings

There are various rulings of the Shari’a which pertain to maḥram, such as travelling to perform the Ḥajj,and being alone with a maḥram, amongst other things. What the ulema have said is that a Muslim lady may travel with a non-Muslim maḥram, and be alone with him as long as he is not considered morally corrupt according to Islamic standards (Tabyīn al-Ḥaqāʾiq). This is to ensure the safety of the Muslim lady, amongst other things.

You may dress in the presence of your uncle as you would dress in the presence of a Muslim uncle or father unless there is fear of any impropriety. In such a case you would have to cover as you would in front of any other males, showing only your hands and face.

May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.

Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.

In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.

Are Step Siblings Mahram?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

My children are in a blended family situation. Their father and I are divorced. He recently re-married a woman who has two daughters 16 and 18. My children are 8 (boy) and 6 (girl). Is my son mahram to his teenage step sisters?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

No, stepbrothers and stepsisters aren’t considered to be unmarriageable kin (mahram) to one another.

This is because the generality of the verse 4:23 applies to siblings who minimally have a shared parent. Stepchildren don’t have this relationship, and therefore, when the boy gets a little older, his teenage stepsisters need to cover up in front of him.

[Kasani, Bada`i al-Sana`i fi Tartib al-Shara`i]

Please also see: Is My Half-Brother From My Unmarriageable Kin (Mahram)? and: Who is Mahram

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.